This time last year, I was in the middle of making one of the biggest decisions of my life so far, the decision to leave my comfortable, safe corporate job and to take my coaching business full-time. I had recently been promoted to management and truly loved the people I worked with and the opportunities that I had been given, but had known since leaving college that I never truly studied or went after what I was passionate about. I went after what was safe. In 2018 I became a certified running coach and began coaching runners shortly after in 2019. After 3 years, I had built up my roster of athletes with Team Sugar Runs to the point that I really needed to make a decision – did I continue growing the business and make it my full-time job or did I cap my athlete roster and focus more on my full-time job, because doing both with the number of athletes I had and the amount of responsibility I had in corporate just wasn’t sustainable anymore. I went back and forth on the decision, talking with Ross daily about where my head was at, shedding a lot of tears, and ultimately deciding to be brave and take the leap. I put in my two-weeks notice at my job and as of the beginning of 2022 was a full-time running coach. Telling our families was the scariest part because it wasn’t a traditional “path” or “job” and I was so scared that they wouldn’t be proud of me or think I was making the right choice (I think this says a lot more about me and how much I care about what others think and less about them), but I was pleasantly surprised by the support I received.
Shortly after having made the announcement to my family, Christmas-time came around and I was able to talk to extended family more about the path I was taking. One conversation had more impact on me than I would realize at the time. We always get together with my uncle and his family shortly before or after Christmas just the small group of us and this year we all got together at my parents’ house the day after Christmas to play games and have a meal together. I remember sitting around my parents’ dining room table talking with my uncle and aunt before everyone had been seated about the big job change and telling him, “I won’t make as much money as I did in my corporate job so that’s a little scary,” and him almost immediately responding with something along the lines of, “so what? You’ll be much happier and that’s worth a lot more.” It meant a lot coming from him because I knew he had lived this; moving up well within the corporate world but it not necessarily being his “passion”. It’s what most people do in this world and most of us never are able to make our passions our careers. I had been inspired by him, however, when he published his first children’s book, doing something a lot of people would be afraid to do out of fear of failing/trying something new, but he did it proudly and excited to try something completely new. It’s from this that I knew just how much he meant when he told me how important it was to be happy vs. chasing the money.
Exactly one week later on January 2nd, he passed away very unexpectedly and suddenly leaving our hearts broken. It felt surreal having just been sitting across the table from him the week before, or playing games together in the family room. My uncle always had a smile on his face and could make anyone laugh. He was so young and it didn’t seem fair to me that this could be happening to his family or to my mom, losing her last relative after losing both of her parents so young. I was so sad, but I was also so angry. Death is hard no matter when or how it happens but this just seemed so unfair. I struggled for a couple months, being old enough to understand that bad things happen to good people but seeing it first hand happen to someone I love made it so much more confusing.
The anger passed quicker than the grief, and I was thankful to have my running during this time for consistency it provided during a tough time and additionally the endorphin boost that I was severely lacking. The day of my uncle’s death I went on an afternoon run on a day I would’ve normally opted for the treadmill as the roads were still full of snow not having been cleared yet by the plows. I put sunglasses on to hide the tears streaming down my face and just ran, not planning any sort of route and just taking random streets as they came. I ran down the street my childhood friend lived on, not realizing that he was home at the time, and at the exact moment that I ran by his parents’ house he and his wife were in the driveway loading up their car to head back to Minnesota. They didn’t know what had happened and I didn’t tell them in that moment, but getting to hug both of them brought a lot of peace to me that they were there at the exact time that I needed a sign that things were going to be ok. What’s still crazy to me looking back is that had I left any earlier/later or picked a different street to run down that day that I would’ve never known they were home and passed them. This was an early, but important part of my healing process knowing that I was being watched over.
I had just started to train for the marathon at this time and while this would have been a good reason to consider dropping down in distance or taking some time off, something inside of me wanted to keep trying. The winter in Chicago was brutally cold and windy earlier this year and seemed to go on forever, so when I learned in late February that my goal marathon had been canceled, I really wondered if it was yet another sign telling me that I wasn’t meant to run a marathon this spring/it would’ve been another good reason to stop training. But again, something inside me wanted to keep trying and to not give up so easily just because the cycle wasn’t going as smoothly as I had hoped. The biggest thing driving me during these months was the gift of life and the ability to be able to run; it’s something I know I have taken for granted in the past and in losing someone I loved, I started looking at things a lot differently than I had before.
I had set a lot of goals for myself and my coaching business for 2022 but what I didn’t realize at the time was just how burnt out I was. I promptly got sick the week after I left my corporate job, sicker than I had been in years, and could barely get out of bed for about a week feeling so awful. When everyone went back to work in early 2022, I was at home a lot more feeling sad and a little lonely, which didn’t lead to being as productive as I thought I would be with less responsibilities on my plate. I felt guilty for awhile with how I felt and how I wasn’t being super productive, able to rely on the stability of a husband who has a great job, but he was the one who helped me realize that it was ok to take a little break from being overly-ambitious for a little while and to just live and enjoy the newfound extra time I had. It took me until the summer to start feeling re-energized and excited to start advancing on some of the goals I had set for myself, like passing the NASM Certified Personal Trainer exam. I passed my test in July and as of writing this blog, was offered a job as a personal trainer at my local gym which I’ll hopefully begin soon. I continued working with many of my athletes from 2021 in 2022 and have enjoyed bringing new athletes on board working with them towards their running goals. Although also a little embarrassing to admit, I finally found a routine and schedule in October that has been working well for me to structure my days at home to be more productive.
As someone who is very goal-oriented and driven, it was tough for me to be struggling so much this year with feeling “aimless” and unmotivated. It became very clear that I needed a break after burning the candle from both ends for so long trying to balance a corporate career, my coaching business, my own training, and my personal relationships, but when I took the break I felt “lazy” and undeserving of the time off, thinking every minute needed to be filled with something to justify my decision to work full-time from home in coaching. I would tell someone else going through this type of transition to have more grace with themselves and that it’s ok to take time for yourself. I think I probably would’ve been more productive earlier in the year had I stopped fighting with myself so much about taking the break and just taken it. We can only be the best, most productive version of ourselves when we are happy and healthy and I wish I would’ve accepted that truth earlier and extended myself more grace.
After the marathon and a positive covid diagnosis, I struggled with running for about 10 weeks, never feeling very good on runs and barely being able to run my half marathon pace for even 1000 meters at a time. I felt so down during this time because here I was having all this extra time I never had before when working both jobs and I felt like it was being wasted on not being able to train. Looking back now, I’m sad for that version of me who was measuring success in life only by the ability to run and run fast. I think it’s reasonable to be upset when your running isn’t going well but I had inadvertently made running my entire life between my career and my personal running, and had forgotten how many other good parts of my life there were that were worth pursuing and spending time on. Ironically by seeking more balance in my life I had become very unbalanced.
I took a break from structured training for awhile and decided to give myself a season off from any big racing goals. I said yes to long weekends visiting friends, going to events, staying up late, traveling, etc., something I’d usually say no to for fear of not getting enough sleep/getting sick during training. I feel like I fully lived this summer and fall and during that time, my workouts and local 5K races ended up feeling pretty good and I ran some of my fastest times without being so laser-focused on it. I ran better because I was happy. I’ve been working harder because I’m happy. Happy in my career, happy in my relationships, happy in my life. It truly is the secret sauce behind success.
We were listening to the sermon at church last week and I felt like the year came full-circle for me. The sermon was about learning to give thanks in all situations, even the ones that don’t seem like there would be much reason to be thankful for. A few weeks ago I was involved in a hit and run while I was working at the running store and my car was parked in the parking lot. In that moment I was upset, but one of the first things that came out of my mouth was, “it’s just a thing and things can be replaced.” I wasn’t in the car, I had no bodily damage, it was just a metal frame of a car that was damaged. It was un unexpected cost for us and of course I wasn’t excited about it, but 2022 has reminded me of what a gift it is to live, to be loved, and to be happy. To have all of these things means everything else is just extra. The extras, like running, weren’t great this year, but the core – to be healthy and alive, to be loved by a wonderful family, and to be happy with who I am and the life I am building – that is such a beautiful gift.